Amid Apple’s Antennagate issue, which has clearly shadowed other major/minor events across globe in last 3-4 days, I would like to bring back attention of readers to two relatively unnoticed events. The common point of both the events is its potential to disrupt our understanding of industry.

Yes, we are back to table with new ideas over ‘Free Navigation Services’.

When I wrote last time about Navigation tussle, it’s Garmin’s turn to talk about Free Navigation fallacies. The company was in real trouble since Google & Nokia offered Phone based navigation maps free of cost to users and was ready to assault back. It’s hard time to understand the implications of such move for Garmin.

But this is just the beginning!

Nokia is preparing to play big role is world of navigation. In the latest post on Symbian Blog, Nokia is planning to take phone based navigation one step ahead with its latest innovation- ‘Terminal Mode Navigation’. With TMN i.e. Terminal Mode Navigation, Nokia is proposing industry standard of integration of mobile phones into car environment. TMN is the system, which replicates the mobile device’s screen onto a in-dash display of car unit (head unit). Moreover, it also allows interaction of head unit and associated controls to be sent back to mobile device i.e. allowing two way communication channel. The blog also explains that TMN is a service & would be device agnostic, which would also allow other device makers to come in and develop the standard. Nokia is willing to form industry based Terminal Mode Industry consortium later this year in association with CE4A.

Now let’s turn attention to other event. Apparently after buying, ‘Wayfinder’, a navigation company last year, Voadfone, has announced that it’s making navigation source code open to use for wider audiences. Vodafone has earlier positioned to sell Wayfinder subscription services, but now, opened the sourced code of service, which would help third party app makers to use such source code and develop navigation based applications. Vodafone’s move of buying Wayfinder has come under fire after Nokia & Google started offering Navigation maps free of cost to subscribers.

If you look closely, then either Nokia’s TMN or Vodafone’s Wayfinder move takes navigation one step closer to Open Source or towards ‘Free’ side. Earlier when Phone based or Car based Navigation Services are considered out of reach for users; now the picture is entirely opposite. With Nokia/Android devices, you can very well make use of Phone based Navigation free of cost. And with opening of source code by Vodafone to wider audiences, soon we might get better options than Ovi/Google Maps and that too free of cost. App stores would get flooded with Navigation based services and who knows, you might be using TMN in your car with better maps (than MapsmyIndia) in 4-5 years down the line. The day is not far, when we would be relying heavily on real time location based information such as traffic on daily commute routes or local sports events etc.

I feel Navigation industry has reached to a turning point where now all attention is on Paid Navigation Service providers. In span of just two years, the dominance of handful of Navigation players has changed into survival of the fittest scenario. And with such events, paid navigation based services are likely to become history. But it’s also more interesting to see that, how such disruptive business model of free navigation services would survive in long run. Companies like Garmin & Tom Tom have to rethink their position in this tussle. Instead of just pushing Free/Paid agenda for long, a little out-of-box thinking could make much difference for them. Offering something just free of cost doesn’t offer free hand to market dominance and if Garmin et al understands this, we would likely to see interesting offerings in coming months. Navigation market has become very dynamic and there’s little room for those, who are willing to change with time!

Tags : Free NavigationGarminGoogle MapsOvi MapsTerminal Mode NavigatorVodafoneWayfinder